Wanted: a spinner with accuracy

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iol spt dec29 Tahir

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Lungani Zama laments SA s lack of a consistent spinner. File photo: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

Vacancy: Top-class spinner. Duties: Land the ball regularly, be proficient in the field and occasionally show some flair with the bat. An ability to run through tail-enders will be advantageous.

Qualifications: A promising first-class record, the ability to small-talk in more than one official language to confuse the opposition, and the ability to turn the ball both ways will also add substance to your qualification.

This is not exclusively a BEE position, although applicants of African descent will be fast-tracked through the initial interview process.

Though Cricket South Africa would be loath to print an advert of that nature, the unspoken truth is that the Proteas are increasingly resigned to the fact that they are back to square one when it comes to a specialist spinner.

That JP Duminy is now South Africa’s most trusted twirler in Test cricket speaks volumes of the barren cupboard that is the spin department in this country. Indeed, with Jaques Kallis now hanging up his boots in the longest format, Duminy is the closest player to a genuine all-rounder in the Test team.

His bowling has come on in leaps and bounds, and it is a good thing too, because he has been in demand.

Imran Tahir’s Jekyll and Hyde nature is not in keeping with the meticulous manner in which Graeme Smith likes his sides to operate. Despite having the greatest wicket-taking celebrations since Allan Donald’s ‘aeroplane’ back in the 90s, Tahir seems incapable of being nearly consistent enough at the highest level.

He is either mesmerising or miserable. It must be torturous for a captain to toss him the ball, because you are not sure what will come out. The ecstasy of the Emirates, when he ran through Pakistan like a dodgy curry, are tempered by the woefulness at the Wanderers or the avalanche of Adelaide, when he leaked runs uncontrollably, his length as consistent as the Kingsmead weather.

Never mind the misfields and the dropped catches.

Those would all be forgotten if Tahir performed his primary duty with aplomb. That South Africa couldn’t even take the gamble of playing him in Durban, a track that is increasingly becoming South Africa’s most spin-friendly deck, says much about the diminishing trust his captain has in him.

There seems to be no middle ground, where he can churn out a spell of 15-20 overs, keeping an end quiet, while Morné Morkel or Dale Steyn chew an apple at fine-leg to recover from their latest spells.

And therein lies the rub. The lack of an ineffective spinner is seriously compromising the manner in which the Proteas operate, as their frontline bowlers are coming back for second and third spells before they are fully rested. The loss of Kallis will only heap the pressure on in this regard, as he so often covered for a misfiring member of the attack.

Those days are gone now, and as the Proteas look towards next year and a head-on collision with the Aussies, high on their agenda will be addressing the balance of their attack. All the talk since Kallis dropped his bombshell has been of Quinton de Kock being handed a Test cap.

But that would be premature. South Africa has a wealth of batting talent, but they can only set up a Test match.

It’s a bowling unit that wins you matches, yet they are missing a vital cog. With the country depressingly thin in spin, the coming year may yet see a return to the good old days, when pace ruled the roost.

That is, unless some mysterious maverick emerges from the ranks, and ticks most of the boxes of the job advert that will never see the light of day. - Sunday Independent


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